Graham Bader

  • Kurt Schwitters, Merzbau, ca. 1923–36, mixed media, 12' 10 3/4“ x 19' 3/8” x 15' 1". Reconstruction by Peter Bissegger, 1981–83/1988. All works by Kurt Schwitters © Estate of Kurt Schwitters/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.


    AFTER MEETING KURT SCHWITTERS in December 1919, the Berlin Dadaist Richard Huelsenbeck famously derided him as a “lower-middle-class Victorian” stuck in a “static, snug, middle-class world”—and, even worse, “the Caspar David Friedrich of the Dadaist revolution,” a retrograde in radical’s clothing.¹ Schwitters, whose first major US exhibition in nearly three decades (curated by Isabel Schulz and Josef Helfenstein) is currently on view at the Menil Collection in Houston, certainly did his part to encourage such opinions. Not only did he reside in Hannover, the provincial German metropolis of

  • Gerhard Richter

    Gerhard Richter: Writings 1961-2007, edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Dietmar Elger, New York: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, 2009. 600 pages. $55.

    Gerhard Richter: Early Work, 1951-1972, edited by Christine Mehring, Jeanne Anne Nugent, and Jon L. Seydl. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum/Getty Research Institue, 2010. 176 pages. $50.

    Gerhard Richter (October Files 8), edited by Benjamin H. D. Buchloh. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. 188 pages. $18.

    Gerhard Richter: A Life In Painting, by Dietmar Elger, translated by Elizabeth M. Solaro. Chicago; University of Chicago Press, 2010. 408 pages $

  • View of “Jeff Koons,” 2008, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. From left: New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers, New Shelton Wet/Dry 10-Gallon Displaced Tripledecker, 1981–87; Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994–2000; Pink Panther, 1988; Caterpillar Ladder, 2003; Elephant, 2003; Buster Keaton, 1988; and Triple Hulk Elvis I, 2007. Photo: Nathan Keay.

    Jeff Koons

    IN APRIL 2004, the New York Times Magazine published an excerpt from the then forthcoming book by David Brooks, the newspaper’s main op-ed purveyor of commonsense banalities. Titled “Our Sprawling, Supersize Utopia,” the essay argued that exurbia—that land of megachurches, McMansions, and endless fields of perfectly groomed grass—was a uniquely American heaven on earth. This paved idyll, Brooks contended, is driven by what he termed “the Paradise Spell”:

    [The Spell] is . . . the tendency to see the present from the vantage point of the future. It starts with imagination—the ability

  • E.L. Kirchner, Street, Berlin, 1913, oil on canvas, 47 1/2 x 35 7/8".

    E. L. Kirchner

    Looking back from the Weimar years to the eve of World War I, this exhibition will present, for the first time together in New York, seven of the Berlin streetscapes Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painted after moving to that city in 1911.

    Following last year's presentations of “Dada” at MoMA (which featured, in part, Berlin rabble-rousers like George Grosz, John Heartfield, and Raoul Hausmann) and the Metropolitan Museum's survey of Neue Sachlichkeit Verism, “Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s,” along comes the work of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to complete something of a Berlin trilogy. Looking back from the Weimar years to the eve of World War I, this exhibition will present, for the first time together in New York, seven of the Berlin streetscapes Kirchner painted after moving to that city in


    With its unflinching portrayals of villainous politicians, maimed veterans, sex-trade casualities, and rapacious tycoons, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s” presents a riveting picture of a troubled time unnervingly resonant with our own. For art historian GRAHAM BADER, these images betray the signs of an intensifying subjugation of biology to politics, with implications for how the state—and artists—approach the human body today.

    WHOEVER IS DESIGNING the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s signage must have a wry sense of humor. How else to explain the recent pairing of a gaudily made-up transvestite and a sternly elegant Greek god in the museum’s ancient art galleries, where a fortuitously placed sign directing visitors to “Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s” makes it appear as if the looming cross-dresser from a 1927 painting by Christian Schad is sneaking up to peck the marble Hermes at her side? Situated immediately outside “Glitter and Doom”’s entrance, and thus serving as a kind of quasi-preface to the show

  • Candida Höfer, Palacio Real Madrid I 2000, color photograph, 60 x 60".  © 2004 Candida Höfer/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Candida Höfer

    The Norton Museum of Art’s installation of “Architecture of Absence,” the first North American survey of the work of German photographer Candida Höfer, opened with an auspicious face-off. In the small entry gallery, two recent sixty-inch-square C-prints depicting empty auditoriums stared across the space at ten smaller photographs, double hung and dating back to 1979, showing a selection of interiors—lecture halls, museum galleries, dining rooms, transit stops, theaters. This introduction concisely encapsulated the terms that have dominated Höfer’s practice since the late 1970s: The public

  • High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture, catalogue of an exhibition curated by Adam Gopnik and Kirk Varnedoe, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1990.

    “High & Low”

    October 7 isn’t just the day, in 1990, that the long-awaited exhibition “High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture” opened at the Museum of Modern Art; it is also the date, one year earlier, that the US Congress finally resolved to keep the really low out of the high, at least where federal funds were concerned. The legislation passed that afternoon in 1989, with the aim of blunting Senator Jesse Helms’s attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts by a compromise agreement that prohibited funding of “obscene” art, was—of course—a mess. If the courtroom definition of obscenity excluded work